By Rakesh Bhatnagar (DNA), Aug. 6, 2010
Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Mayawati’s Rs2,250-crore dream project â€” the Yamuna Expressway connecting Delhi and Agra â€” is in for a bumpy ride. The Supreme Court (SC) raised certain pertinent queries on Friday regarding its environment clearance after 4,000 trees were chopped in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal.
The project envisages a six-lane, 165-km stretch connecting Greater Noida and Agra and reduces travel time between the cities from four to around two hours.
The state government had announced that it would complete the project by February, but with SC stepping in it now appears a distant dream.
SC, which is seized of clearance to many projects since the 1990s in the eco-sensitive zone near the Taj Mahal, also called Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), said the clearance to the expressway had been given without its consent. “Which authority has permitted you? Even before touching TTZ, you have to seek permission of this court,” an anguished bench of justices DK Jain and HL Dattu said.
The court also asked the government-controlled Yamuna Expressway Authority and Jaypee Infratech Limited, which is building the expressway and real estates along it, to submit documents relating to environment clearance.
“We want to see how you have been granted permission,” the court said while putting in abeyance a plea of the authorities concerned for permission to chop more trees.
“You have put the cart before the horse,” the judges saidand pointed out that other aspects of environment, particularly protection of the Taj Mahal and other monuments in TTZ, had to be considered before giving any clearance to the project.
“We have to see whether the project is prejudicial to the monuments or not,” SC said while taking note of a submission made by Krishan Mahajan, who is assisting the court in this matter, that there were five protected Mughal-era monuments in the area.
A report submitted to the court in 2008 had said 2,332 trees were illegally felled around the Taj Mahal, rendering the white marbled monument vulnerable to environmental hazards.